Do drivers stop at stop signs?

I thought this was completely non-controversial. We all know that a full stop is required (for bicyclists, too, by the way) by law, always,  and that there is no wiggle room. Do drivers slow down? Yes, often. Do they make a full stop? Rarely.

Or rather, it completely depends on traffic — if there is conflicting traffic they do (usually) stop; otherwise RARELY. Here is a brief clip where 1 driver stopped (well, almost, but I’ll give it to him) to yield to cross-traffic, and then the next SIX rolled through without stopping:

If that’s too short for you, here is a longer clip that I didn’t even bother to count — the story is exactly the same; DRIVERS RARELY STOP AT STOP SIGNS.

For the technically curious: there is no (marked) crosswalk in this direction, nor is there a painted stop line, here is the statute regarding stop signs: §28-855.

Here’s a newer clip 48th and Guadalupe Rd, City of Phoenix: 28/30 (93%. And that’s being generous) don’t comply — note that drivers must stop BEFORE a marked crosswalk. It’s a pretty boring 3 minute video (total elapsed time ~ 6 minutes)

Why do they do it?

See Stop Sign Compliance for discussion and links to some social research studies that offer some explanations. In social research, it is referred to as an example of a “folk crime” (dubbed so apparently by H. L. Ross in 1961, see Traffic Law Violation: A Folk Crime, 8 Social Problems 232).

The more direct explanation is people (drivers and cyclists are people, after all!) act in ways that they perceive as rational and reasonable, and pay scant attention to the letter of the law.

Do drivers stop before making a Right Turn on Red?

It is the same story. Here’s a clip in case you are interested (sorry, but you’ll have to skip in about 40 seconds in order to be able to see the traffic signal). Best bet is to note at 7:22 a silver car followed immediately by 2 pickup trucks all roll through the red light without stopping.

Do bicyclists run Red Lights?

Here is an interesting published article that goes along along with the compliance theme  from AAP: Riding through red lights: The rate, characteristics and risk factors of non-compliant urban commuter cyclists, via a posting at


7 thoughts on “Do drivers stop at stop signs?”

  1. From the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety FAQ on Red Light Cameras:

    Red light runners cause hundreds of deaths and tens of thousands of injuries each year. In 2009, 676 people were killed and an estimated 130,000 were injured in crashes that involved red light running. About half of the deaths in red light running crashes are pedestrians, bicyclists, and occupants in other vehicles who are hit by the red light runners.(1)

    An Institute study of urban crashes found that those involving drivers who ran red lights, stop signs and other traffic controls were the most common type of crash (22 percent). Injuries occurred in 39 percent of the crashes in which motorists ran traffic controls.(2)

    How often do drivers run red lights?
    A study conducted during several months at 5 busy intersections in Fairfax, Virginia, prior to the use of red light cameras found that, on average, a motorist ran a red light every 20 minutes at each intersection.*
    During peak travel times, red light running was more frequent. Analysis of red light violation data from 19 intersections without red light cameras in 4 states found that 1,775 violations occurred over 554 hours, for a violation rate of 3.2 per hour per intersection.(3)

    1) Retting, R.A.; Williams, A.F.; Preusser, D.F.; and Weinstein, H.B. 1995. Classifying urban crashes for countermeasure development. Accident Analysis and Prevention 27:283-94

    2) Retting, R.A.; Williams, A.F.; Farmer, C.M.; and Feldman, A.F. 1999. Evaluation of red light camera enforcement in Fairfax, Va., USA. ITE Journal 69:30-34.

    3) Hill, S.E. and Lindly, J.K. 2003. Red light running prediction and analysis. UTCA Report no. 02112. Tuscaloosa, AL: University Transportation Center for Alabama.

  2. Recently I’ve had an experience similar to Elly’s. I was riding near the center of my lane on University, where there is no bike lane, and I was easily keeping up with the balky, stop-and-go traffic. So I was impeding no one. Yet the car in front of me came to a halt and turned on its right turn blinker. Maybe a half-dozen bikes darted through the gap between the car and the right curb (a maneuver I now consider foolhardy and won’t do). I thought then she would pull over: I was obviously stopped, and both my feet were on the ground. But still she just waited — holding up me and 2-3 cars behind me. After a few seconds I should have simply passed her on the left, but unfortunately one of us spoke up (her back door window was open) and the conversation went something like this:
    “What are you doing?” I asked.
    “I’m trying not to kill you!”
    “You can just go ahead!”
    “I’m not moving until you pass me!”
    Flustered, I replied, “That’s not how traffic works!” A condescending answer, but it could have been worse.

    I don’t remember her reply, but we both were getting increasingly angry and stubborn. So after a few more seconds of standing and waiting I got off my bike, stepped onto the sidewalk, and walked past her.

    As best I can tell, she was royally pissed off because I was riding in the road just like a vehicle, and had the temerity NOT to pass on her right.

  3. Survey finds bicyclists and motorists ignore traffic laws at similar rates / Science Friday July 15, 2015

    Went to but couldn’t find any results, it just says that “Thank you for your interest, but the survey is now closed…
    With over 17,000 completed surveys, we are excited to see what we find!
    Results will be shared here at ” but don’t see any results and just says the same thing.

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